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Aug. 30th, 2008 | 06:04 pm

The perfect is the enemy of the good.
-- Voltaire

What can I say when very intelligent people stand back and say that neither/none of the viable candidates running for President deserves their vote? 

They are very intelligent, and therefore they have already analyzed the alternatives, weighed the pluses and minuses, and are convinced of the superior rationality of their decision.

These Greens/Libertarians/unregistered folk have their killer points at the ready:

I could never vote for someone who said “x”, who voted for “y”, or won’t commit to “z”.

The candidate(s) are either too centrist, or pandering too much to the extremes.

The major parties are too conciliatory (no backbone!) or too independent (arrogant!).

These holdouts understand why other people might object to their refusal to join the herd and vote with the crowd.  But, they’re standing by their principles. 

I don’t know what to say.

Logical argument just doesn’t work.  I have walked my recalcitrant friends over many logical cliffs, only to watch them ignore gravity, not fall, and only be strengthened that they are following a moral path as they walk on air above the fray.

Their decision, despite its endless logical underpinnings, is fundamentally not one stemming from reason.  It’s emotional. It’s psychological. 

These smart people, for some non-intellectual reason, ignore or discount the nature of  community.  They shun compromise on so many fronts that they ensure their own noble isolation.

My friends will even praise representative democracy in the abstract. But they will personally endorse only a  Utopian statesman/woman who runs a benevolent dictatorship based solely on my friends’ own decisions on proper policies and programs.

My friends raise impossibly high (i.e., not ever seen in the wild) standards for would-be leaders of our country, find all contenders lacking, refuse to vote for a major candidate, and then get some payoff which is… what? 

Does it matter? 

Yes, if I want to help build a community and be served by the best possible politicians. 

Isolation, “Let the Devil take them”, “I won’t play in your game” withdrawal, even when done with humor or reasoned-sounding argument, does not improve society or our individual lives. 

Participation, compromise, and getting dirty with the other kids in the sand box are important for both individuals and for the community. 

I’ve told friends that until I run for President myself there will be no candidate that’s really morally pure enough for the office.  Just like there’s no man as perfect as I am with whom to be in a relationship.

I’m voting.  I have a fiancée who’ve I shared my life with for 17 years. I just don’t know what to tell friends who are waiting for their mythical “good enough” leader.

This post has been percolating for many months. A similar earlier philippic appeared in 2006. dr_scott's "I Like Freedom" and "Sectarian Warfare" were the immediate motivational sources for this post.


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